What Is Gender Identity Disorder?

Adults with Gender Identity Disorder are preoccupied with their wish to live as a member of the other sex. This preoccupation may be manifested as an intense desire to adopt the social role of the other sex or to acquire the physical appearance of the other sex through hormonal or surgical manipulation. Adults with this disorder are uncomfortable being regarded by others as, or functioning in society as, a member of their designated sex. To varying degrees, they adopt the behavior, dress, and mannerisms of the other sex. In private, these individuals may spend much time cross-dressed and working on the appearance of being the other sex. Many attempt to pass in public as the other sex. With cross-dressing and hormonal treatment (and for males, electrolysis), many individuals with this disorder may pass convincingly as the other sex. The sexual activity of these individuals with same-sex partners is generally constrained by the preference that their partners neither see nor touch their genitals. For some males who present later in life, (often following marriage), sexual activity with a woman is accompanied by the fantasy of being lesbian lovers or that his partner is a man and he is a woman.

In adolescents, the clinical features may resemble either those of children or those of adults, depending on the individual's developmental level, and the criteria should be applied accordingly. In younger adolescents, it may be more difficult to arrive at an accurate diagnosis because of the adolescent's guardedness. This may be increased if the adolescent feels ambivalent about cross-gender identification or feels that it is unacceptable to the family. The adolescent may be referred because the parents or teachers are concerned about social isolation or peer teasing and rejection. In such circumstances, the diagnosis should be reserved for those adolescents who appear quite cross-gender identified in their dress and who engage in behaviors that suggest significant cross-gender identification (e.g., shaving legs in males). Clarifying the diagnosis in children and adolescents may require monitoring over an extended period of time.

Distress or disability in individuals with Gender Identity Disorder is manifested differently across the life cycle. In young children, distress is manifested by the stated unhappiness about their assigned sex. Preoccupation with cross-gender wishes often interferes with ordinary activities. In older children, failure to develop age-appropriate same sex peer relationships and skills often leads to isolation and distress, and some children may refuse to attend school because of the teasing or pressure to dress in attire stereotypical of their assigned sex. in adolescents and adults, preoccupation with cross-gender wishes often interferes with ordinary activities. Relationship difficulties are common and functioning at school or at work may be impaired.


For sexually mature individuals, the following specifiers may be noted based on the individual's sexual orientation: Sexually Attracted to Males, Sexually Attracted to Females, Sexually Attracted to Both, and Sexually Attracted to Neither. Males with Gender Identity Disorder include substantial proportions with all four specifiers. Virtually all females with Gender Identity Disorder will receive the same specifier-Sexually Attracted to Female- although there are exceptional cases involving females who are sexually Attracted to Males.

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